Take note, plant sellers big and small:
You may catch my eye with showy plants and pretty flowers, low prices and special bogo deals, but the way to keep me coming back for more is with lots of good information.
At the very least, put the things I need to know on tags. (Handwritten info is fine, perhaps even better than generic printed data that doesn't necessarily apply to Florida gardening.) Sun or shade? Drought tolerant or always thirsty? Will it fold in a freeze or tough it out?
Better yet, stop and talk to me a bit - or at least be available for questions. Tell me why I would or wouldn't want this plant. Give me some insider tips for what might make it thrive. Share some stories about what worked for you. Make eye contact, for crying out loud.
If you're enthusiastic about your product, I will be, too.
I wish more sellers were like George Griepenburg and Cindy Deloy, my favorite vendors at last weekend's USF Tropical Plant sale. (They were Penny's faves, too, apparently. She bought all her plants from them, and liked them so much she featured them in this week's "Dig This.")
I tried something different at this sale: I stopped at every single booth before I bought even one plant. I took notes so I'd be able to find the best ones again. Even drew a little map. Then I circled back and gathered up my top picks.
Like Penny, I fell in love with George and Cindy's beautiful plants, but what really got my attention were the signs they used. They were full of useful, sometimes folksy info. Among other things, the sign next to the blackberry lilies bragged that they don't mind "wet feet." Perfect! Just what I needed to know for the spot I had in my mind.
One of those blackberry lilies is in my garden now, along with a couple of other plants I bought from George this time around and a dwarf bottlebrush tree he sold me several months ago. (Still very happy and healthy, by the way.)
George and Cindy also are great about answering questions - even if you're not sure what to ask. At the last USF sale, Cindy told me all about Irish moss. At this one, George explained what to expect from bud to bloom to berries.
It wasn't a pitch. I'd already paid for the plant. They simply want me to enjoy their plants - now my plants - for a long time.
I dig that.